Thailand v Pakistan - The battle of Britain

When managerial work is hard to come by in the UK , many British managers head for more exotic climes.  James Goyder reports on two familiar names in unfamiliar surroundings.

Two British managers met in unfamiliar surroundings on Sunday when Graham Roberts’ Pakistan took on Bryan Robson’s Thailand in the opening group match of the Asian games.

Roberts is a former Chelsea and Tottenham defender who has been in charge of the Pakistan national team for just over a month. Robson, who is best known for captaining Manchester United and England, was appointed as Thailand manager towards the end of 2009.

Thailand are ranked some 60 places higher than their opponents by FIFA and were under pressure to get a result in their opening match in Group A, which also contains Oman and Maldives.

Squad selection at the Asian games is based on the Olympic model with only three players over the age of 23 allowed.

Robson’s team had beaten India in back to back friendlies earlier this year, but both were close competitive games and the former Middlesbrough manager was expecting a similarly tough test from Pakistan.

It looked set to be a frustrating evening for Thailand as some resolute Pakistan defending and goalkeeping kept them at bay. When Robson’s team did make the breakthrough, after quarter of an hour, it was in bizarre circumstances. Datsakorn Thonglao’s corner eluded everyone, including the Pakistan defender on the line, to creep in at the near post.

That goal seemed to settle Thailand’s nerves and Teerasil Dangda added the second within less than a minute with an emphatic bullet header. If there was a touch of fortune about Thonglao’s opening goal the same could not be said about his second, which arrived after 29 minutes.  When the ball was pulled back to him on the edge of the penalty area he had a good sight of goal but rather than putting his foot through the ball, as most players would have done under the circumstances, he elected to attempt an audacious chip.

The goalkeeper was barely a yard off his line yet so exquisite was Thonglao’s outside of the foot effort that it left him rooted to the spot as the ball sailed inexorably into the back of the net. Regardless of the level of opposition this was a goal fit to grace any stage and one that clearly showcased the talents of arguably the finest player in Thailand.

Three goals up going into half time the Thai team could have been forgiven for taking their collective feet off the gas, particularly as many still have domestic commitments in a season which has dragged on and on. Under Robson’s astute guidance though the players have acquired a real appetite for scoring goals which was evident in a one sided second half.

It took less than quarter of an hour for the fourth goal to arrive when Wichaya Dechmitr put it on a plate for Keerati Kaewsombat who, with the Pakistan goal at his mercy, quite simply couldn’t miss.

Anawin Jujeen made it five when he tapped in a rebound after 64 minutes and Teerasil Dangda completed the rout with a delightful dinked finish nine minutes later and the game finished 6-0.

Although Pakistan were able to offer no more than token resistance, Thonglao’s superb second goal will linger in the memory long after this particular game is forgotten.

In the other Group A game Oman beat the Maldives 3-0. The top two teams from each group qualify automatically for the knock out phase of the competition.

You can view all Thailand’s goals, including Datsakorn Thonglao’s brilliant chip at 2:20, here

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